ST. PAUL, MN — Monday morning saw several events celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Twin Cities.
Of the events, the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday held a celebration service at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts.
Governor Mark Dayton attended the General Mills MLK Breakfast in Minneapolis earlier in the morning but fell ill and did not make his scheduled appearance at the Ordway celebration. While there has not been an official update on the Governor’s health, Minnesota’s Chief Inclusion Officer James Burrough told the crowd the Governor was home resting.
Despite the Governor’s absence, big name politicians filled the void to speak about Dr. King’s
legacy. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) addressed the audience first. She spoke on the work ahead, noting the country’s immense progress towards equal rights for all. “They want a country as good as its promise,” said Klobuchar. Klobuchar encouraged those in attendance to not only remember Dr. King’s legacy but to honor it with their actions.
She also mentioned that many were disappointed and concerned with the election results but it meant that she would vote to reauthorize the voting rights act. She also said that it was time to reform the current immigration policy and to pass the federal sentencing bill to make the justice system more accountable. Klobuchar was met with applause as she took a shot at Trump saying “I’d rather be here with you than in Washington right now.”
St. Paul Mayor and candidate for Governor Chris Coleman also spoke at the event. Coleman spoke of a small march from the Capitol to the Ordway Center that took place before the
event and said: “the march was just a segment that began centuries ago.” He said oppression and racism were coming to a head in this country and reminded the crowd “the march must continue.” Coleman also took a shot at President-elect Trump in his speech noting “it happens in statehouses, where we have to continue fighting against federal policy that even though we’ve come so far can be erased with a stroke of a pen or a single tweet,”
Lt. Governor Tina Smith spoke of the courageous actions of three teens at Maple Grove High School who chose to fight racism in their school in a planned walkout. Smith said these teens put Dr. King’s words into action “the time is always right to do what is right.” Smith encouraged the audience to not overthink a situation and to do what is right.
The council gave out three awards for service. One of those awards went to CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein for his work in the community over the last decade.
Speaking with a few attendees before the event, many were there to celebrate the life of Dr. King. Matt, a father of two young children said to Alpha News the celebration brings a sense of optimism and hope – “there isn’t a lot of that right now.” Matt said his two children are currently learning about Dr. King in school and decided to make the trip to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King’s good work.
The event also included music from Grammy-award winning group Sounds of Blackness and keynote speech from Target VP Caroline Wanga who spoke of the steps of activism. The event was hosted by Brandi Powell of KSTP-TV and Chief Inclusion Officer James Burrough.